The broadband industry has only been going for ten years if you exclude the leased line market. 1999 saw the first cable areas getting cable broadband and a few lucky people involved in early BT Interactive trials got their hands on 2Mbps ADSL.
"Now we’ve reached the point where losing your connection or just being in ‘slowband land’ can be incredibly frustrating. Fast internet access has changed the way we listen to music, watch TV, stay in touch with our friends, shop and plan our lives,... It has touched every corner of our lives not just everyone’s life."Tim Johnson, Point Topic
Point Topic has issued a press release charting the progress of Broadband Britain from novelty to necessity. Which in light of the recent comments from Lord Carter that the Universal Service Obligation is about ensuring people have access to online services.
|Region||% of population in reach of 8Mbps and above||% in reach of 2 to 8Mbps||Out of range of 2Mbps||thinkbroadband speedtest average|
|East of England||65%||20.1%||15%||3289Kbps|
|Yorkshire and Humber||60.5%||23.4%||16.1%||3468Kbps|
The table above is probably a picture that is played out in the majority of countries where broadband is available, your capital city will have great coverage but as you venture to the less populated parts the options for broadband decrease and the percentage getting below the proprosed USO increase. In some ways the table from Point Topic when viewed in conjunction with our own regional speed test results shows the real world situation for people.
"The main way to provide 2 megabits in slowband areas will be to invest in bringing fibre to BT’s street cabinets, he says. FTTC (for fibre-to-the-cabinet) is the key next-generation access technology which will support download speeds of 40Mbps or more. So the apparently cautious requirement for 2Mbps will help to provide financial support and a market driver for next-generation access. "Tim Johnson, Point Topic
We would like to share the optimism of Point Topic in that services like Fibre to the Cabinet are the future and could introduce speeds of 20Mbps to 50Mbps being available to the majority. Perhaps a lot of the press coverage and talk from mobile broadband providers was down to the recent trade fair in Spain, but the signs suggest that mobile, as in 3G and 4G, is almost the preferred solution to satisfy the USO. That is certainly how plans for 100% broadband coverage in Ireland are evolving, although a satellite solution is also being used in the hard to reach areas, covering around 8% of the country. The regional statistics, as they are fairly large areas, can mask much more local stories such as Tessdale in the Pennines where currently only 40% can get up to 2Mbps.
Interestingly Openreach released a briefing on a method of broadband enabling very long lines (80dB attenuation or higher - which is thought to account for 160,000 telephone lines in the UK) with a service supporting a 1Mbps connection. The cost per line working out at £1000 to £3000.
Where will the UK be in ten years time? With or without government intervention we expect that 70% of the UK will have speeds of 32Mbps or more available. The remaining 30% is less certain and this is where the USO comes into play. If it is specified such that the implementation lends itself to easy and cheap upgrades as the utility needs for access to digital services changes then all well and good. If it turns into the current USO, where 28Kbps is still considered functional Internet access then we will be having the same debates in 2018/2019.